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Latinas, Start your Engines for 2017!

By Sue Mead.

After another record-breaking year for new car sales in 2016, it gives car buyers something to think about this year. It means the market is healthy and that translates to more models to choose from – and even better prices in the face of increased competition for the automakers.

Is it time for you to look for a new auto? If so, identify your top needs and desires: Is it the ability to carry your family and other precious cargo? The latest in safety and technology? A luxury-laden interior and a highly-regarded audio system? Fuel economy? A fun ride?

Next, do your homework. Research your top picks online, read car reviews to see what the experts think, and then test drive some different vehicles for the right fit. Take a look at the four vehicles we selected; they represent the hot-again category of hatchbacks, still-simmering SUVs, and the increasingly-popular plug-in hybrid segment. Now, that’s something to crow about!

2017 Toyota Prius Prime

This all-new, four-seat hybrid joins the Prius family, adding an updated plug-in version with distinctive styling, a bigger battery, increased electric range and better fuel economy. It has laudable safety, comfort and convenience features.

Trims include Plus ($27,965), Premium ($29,665) and Advanced ($33,965). Prime is all about “the numbers”. It gets slightly better fuel economy than the Prius, with an EPA-estimated 25 miles of electric range, 640 miles of driving range (including gas-powered driving), 55/53/54 mpg city/highway/combined, after the original charge is depleted and it’s running in hybrid mode. It charges on a 120-volt household outlet in under 5.5 hours and in just over two hours, with 240-volt or at most public charging stations.

Of note, home charges can be programmed through the car or a smartphone app to take advantage of off-peak electric rates. Longer than the Prius, Prius Prime has longer overhangs and “dual-wave” rear glass design that splits the rear window in half; LED taillights sit horizontally and run the width of the tailgate. A 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine combines with two electric motor-generators to produce 121 horsepower. A new 11.6-inch multimedia touchscreen has pages for info, destination/navigation, app suite and phone and integrates climate and audio.

Safety Sense P is standard with forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking; lane departure warning with steering assist; automatic high beams; and adaptive cruise control. Optional is “intelligent parking” that steers the Prime into a parallel parking space or backs it into a perpendicular spot.

For more information visit: http://www.toyota.com/priusprime/

2017 Chevy Cruze Hatchback

This all-new, five-door, five-passenger 2017 Chevy Cruze Hatchback sits in a compact footprint, wears mid-size dimensions and has fun ways to reconfigure the interior; the extra door brings more utility, despite the fact that it is shorter than the sedan.

The sporty hatch is enhanced by an upgraded six-speaker audio system, with Sirius XM satellite radio plus steering-wheel-mounted audio and phone controls; daytime running lamps and foglamps; special wraparound taillamps and a rear spoiler in the back. It is powered by a 153-horsepower 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 117 lb.-ft. of torque mated to a six-speed manual or automatic transmission, with a top fuel economy of 29 mpg city/38 highway.

A diesel version will go on sale in the Spring. Standard are Chevrolet MyLink with a 7-inch diagonal color touch-screen; a rear-vision camera; Apple CarPlay and Android Auto via the MyLink radio systems; and available 4G LTE with Wi-Fi hotspot, plus Chevrolet’s Teen Driver safety system that allows parents to set controls, review driving habits and encourage safe driving.

Available features include a heated steering wheel, front and rear seats; Athens leather-appointed seating surfaces with true French seams; and halogen projector-beam headlamps with LED signature lighting. Trims are an all-black interior, black/grey or black/brown. Standard is a rear-view camera and 10 airbags, and wireless charging. A host of available advanced safety technologies help prevent, protect, and respond in the event of a collision; these include front collision alert, rear cross traffic alert, rear park assist, lane-keeping assistance, and side blind zone alerts. Starting price is $22,115.

For more information visit: http://www.chevrolet.com/cruze-compact-car.html

2017 Honda Civic Hatchback

The all-new 10th generation Honda Civic adds a sleek and stylish Euro-styled hatchback body with the practicality of a rear door. It is available in five trims — LX, Sport, EX, EX-L Navi, plus new line-topping Sport Touring — all bring Honda’s appealing combination of sporty design, fun-to-drive performance, thrifty fuel economy, interior utility, safety, and premium features.

The expressive front hood shape resembles the sedan, but the hatchback is shorter; a smaller rear overhang makes the rear wheels look closer to the back end. Black honeycomb inserts adorn the front and rear bumpers.

A turbocharged 1.5-liter 4-cylinder four-engine gets 174 or 180 horsepower, depending on the trim. Transmissions include a sporty CVT or a six-speed manual; Sport Touring CVTs get steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles. Top EPA fuel economy is rated at 31 mpg city/40 mpg highway/ and 34 mpg. Inside is class-leading volume and cargo capacity. White ambient lighting and multi-angle rearview camera are standard. LX and Sport trim levels have keyed ignitions; all others have push-button and, when equipped with CVT, remote start.

Notable are Honda Display Audio with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; heated seats; power driver and front-passenger seats; remote engine start; and other premium features. Standard on Sport Touring models is the comprehensive Honda Sensing tech package to add collision mitigation braking, forward collision warning, lane-keeping assist, road departure mitigation, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control.

Pricing starts at $19,700 for the LX with six-speed manual transmission, and tops out at $25,300 for the EX-L Navi.

For more information visit: http://shop.honda.com/civic-hatchback.aspx?Group=civics

2017 Kia Sportage

Drawing inspiration from modern fighter jets, the fourth-generation Kia Sportage has been redesigned with a striking, contemporary style that brings premium materials, a more robust suspension, performance-tuned engines, and advanced convenience, driver assistance, and safety technologies.

The compact SUV gets all new body panels with juxtaposing smooth curves that meld with sharp creases. Its chrome trim, sloping roofline, sharply raked rear window, longer and more aerodynamic spoiler, and bolder wheel arches make it look more dynamic and aggressive. The top-of-the-line SX Turbo adds new “ice cube” LED fog lamps, HID headlamps, LED tail lights, satin exterior trim, metal-look skid plates, and 19-inch alloy wheels. It’s powered by a 181-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 175 lb.-ft. of torque or an optional turbocharged 2.0-liter that boasts 247/ 260; both are matched to a six-speed automatic transmission, with Normal, Eco, and Sport modes.

A choice of front-wheel- or all-wheel-drive brings inclement weather-handling confidence; it will tow up to 2000 pounds and has a top fuel economy rating of up to 22 mpg city/ 29 highway/ 25 combined. Inside is less wind noise, high-quality soft-touch materials, and impressive comfort and convenience features, like three-level heated and ventilated front seats, dual-zone climate, leather upholstery.

Connectivity technology includes Bluetooth; streaming audio, SiriusXM satellite radio, and rear-camera display. Kia’s third-gen UVO3 telematics and infotainment system offers Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, up to 8 GB of music storage, and access to Pandora, though the touch screen. A dual-level cargo floor and widened luggage area bring increased cargo capacity. Sportage starts at $23,200.

For more information visit: http://www.kia.com/us/en/vehicle/sportage/2017

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